Well, here it is... I honestly wasn't going to post this for a while, since I've been really busy and my muses are finicky as all hell, but I think sometimes you just have to let loose and give yourself a chance. And I hate seeing fics rot in my brain/harddrive when I could be posting them.

Companion piece to Ephemeral Blossoms - timeline will definitely vary. And don't let the prologue fool you; it is Sephiroth-centric. I'll do my best to do him justice.

This is for Rem, who sparked an idle thought into a concept that begged to live. Thanks so much for your encouragement!




Hollow Mausoleum

Akai Kitsune


Prologue - Prayer


She prayed in silence, her hands clasped before her as she knelt on the ground. There was no altar for her, no great church or temple in which to seek shelter. A cold wind blew, lifting her hair, causing a shiver to travel through her body, but she didn't move to warm herself.

A storm was coming.

Nearly there, she thought, distracted for scarcely a moment before returning to her silent pleas. Every second was precious, every word echoing in her mind had to be focused on what she knew was the crucial link needed to save this world. The others didn't know what she was doing, nor did she have time to tell them. Let them wonder, or let them learn if she succeeded.

She intended to stay behind, finish it if she could. She wouldn't tell them that.

The gentle thrum of the world beneath her, around her, murmured in her heart. It was suffering, weakening at each new conquest. Every Heartless that walked or ran or flew or crawled was a wound. They were all enemies.

Be safe. Be strong. All is not lost so long as you do not give up...

It was crying out for aid, in search of rest, the blades of resistance growing dull with each failure.

Let me be your support. Let me guide your strength. Take up your sword and fight for what is yours.

I will not falter...

More cries, reverberating in her heart. There was so much pain, so little she could do. But she wouldn't stop, nor could she allow her world to fade. Not when it could save itself.

To the gods, to the skies, to the very core of this world... -help us-...

Something stirred. A surge of hope rushed through her body, but she did not cease; her chanting prayer continued on.

Sea, to earth, to air... waterfalls, to the trees of the forest, to every creature, -help us-...

Her hands trembled. She could feel the rising darkness, hear the startled shouting of those nearby. Airships roared to life.

Close. So close.

From these mortal lands to the eternal heavens above... from our cold creations to the warmth of the Lifestream...

Holy... oh Guardian, -help us-...

"Aerith!" Someone grabbed her arm, shaking her roughly, and she cried out, feeling it fade, the answer slipping from her fingers. She turned desperate eyes upwards, but the man hook his head. "C'mon, we've gotta go. We can't wait for them anymore."

"I... I know," she murmured distantly. She already knew he was gone, though not where or how far. There was nothing she could do for him.

"One minute," she pleaded, and without waiting for an answer she tugged her arm free. Reaching up to her hair, she pulled loose a simple white bauble, wrapped up in a pink ribbon. Ignoring the questioning gaze of the gruff pilot behind her, she gently laid it on the ground, uttering a final prayer as her fingertips left the pale orb. She then withdrew an envelope from her pocket, and out of it she pulled three flowers, half-dried and crinkling. She plucked a single petal from each one, placing them around her hair ornament reverently as if they were artifacts of great worth and power.

They could be, she thought absently. Who was she to say? She followed her heart without question.

Flowers in hand, she stood, taking a few steps forward to the edge of the shipyard, overlooking the vast city, watching shadows grow everywhere she looked.

Help us.

She lifted her arm, releasing the flowers, letting them drift on the wind, spinning and twisting together as they drifted towards the world beneath them.

Lily, rose, buttercup. Her artifacts of hope.

Help us. Help us stop the darkest heart of them all.

"Aerith!" the man called again, his voice urgent. Slowly, reluctantly, she turned away from the falling blossoms, facing her friend.

"I'm ready," she whispered, a gentle lie she didn't want to give but couldn't help saying it, either. She let him grasp her hand and pull her along behind him, and they rushed back the ship, leaving behind a prayer as the only defense for a broken world.

And as the ships lifted off the ground and faded from view, slowly, faintly, the white Materia began to glow.


AN: Forgive any vagueness; all shall be explained, I swear!

More coming soon, though the first chapter will either be very short or very long, depending on how I decide to go about doing it. We'll have to see.

Thank you for reading!